Dierks Bentley has two big shows this month. The first is this weeks CMA Music Festival in Nashville. The second one he’ll be doing something new. Bentley will be playing with rock bands like the Police and the White Stripes at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn on June 14-17.
Bentley admits he is a little nervous about playing in front of so many people who might not even like country music, but he’s excited about possibly changing their minds.
"It's putting us in a position we're not entirely comfortable with as a band," he acknowledged recently before heading off for rehearsals. "It's going to be sink or swim. But I'm excited about it."
"This kind of music, when done properly, can appeal to anybody. It can be hokey if it's put out hokey. But if it's done right, it's the coolest type of music out there," he said.
The CMA Music Festival was known as "Fan Fair" when it started in 1972 because it gives fans the chance to shake hands with their favorite country music singers. This year Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, Brooks & Dunn, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, Gretchen Wilson, Trace Adkins, Sugarland, Big & Rich, and of course Dierks Bentley is scheduled to perform.
At 13 Bentley learned to play the electric guitar and he became a huge fan of heavy metal groups. Then at 17 a friend introduced Hank Williams Jr. to him and he immediately connected to the music.
"From 17 to 26, I listened to nothing but country and bluegrass," he said. "I was really hardcore about it." Bentley said.
His hits like "What was I thinking" and "Every Mile a Memory" shows how he brings a little rock into country.
"This guy is a staunch traditionalist, and he can debate you forever about traditional country music," Mike Dungan, president of Bentley's label, said. "But he grew up in a time when he was exposed to rock music and he loves U2 and Coldplay and bands like that. I think that combination comes through."
"I'm a Nashville-based band and a country act, but we do things differently than most mainstream acts," Bentley says. "We're trying to take this music to new places."